EVERGREEN hilly forests being denuded of trees, especially in the past couple of months, as New Age reported on Thursday, and the pace of such destruction of the forest is concerning. What remains the most worrisome about this is that the felling of trees is driven by illegal firewood business, said to be taking place for bribes within a nexus composed of some forest officials, police personnel, political party leaders and timber traders. By way of this happening, while forests are becoming thin, the natural habitat for the wildlife is being threatened and the government is losing a huge amount of money in revenue. It is in this context, the government should expeditiously shore up issues to stop the illegal felling of trees and save all — the forests, the wildlife and government revenue. The forest office in question claimed that it had in 2017 issued permits for cutting down trees for 72,000 cubic feet of firewood along with transport passes while this year, permits have so far been issued for 12,750 cubic feet of firewood along with 69 transport passes. But this is, as traders sought to say, nowhere near the truth as more than 3,00,000 to 4,00,000 cubic feet of firewood was sold out and transported out of the forest illegally in 2017.
A half of the trees that are felled mostly include Burmese teak, Coromandel ebony and beechwood many of which are known for their high-tensile strength and tight grain and are commonly used for furniture. They are smuggled out of the forest also for use in brick kilns. This calls out the government on attending to some other environmental issues regarding brick kiln administration. While the whole incident of the felling of trees, driven by illegal timber trade, is going on with the Chittagong Hill Tracts South Forest Division knowing it fully well, almost all quarters such as the law enforcers and even local leaders of political parties are, as the report said, named to have been involved in it. A huge amount of money is said to have driven the illegal affair. Timber is seized but is reported to have been let go in exchange for bribe. In the situation, the government should attend to the issue stringently, setting up investigations and punishing the offenders deterrently. Considering the scale of plundering of timber only in forests in Rangamati, it is not difficult to guess what is happening to other forests in other areas. It is time that the government should guard the guards or go for a change in guards so that the natural resources are not thus depleted.
The government, under the circumstances, must take up the issue seriously and take steps to sincerely stop the plundering of forest resources. This will not only save the forests, but also the environment and the habitat of wildlife. This will, above all, stop the illegal trade of timber. On the other front, the government must also keep watch on the brick kilns that burn timbers to make bricks, which is detrimental to the environment, while the government is trying to put in place environmentally-friendly brick kilns.
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